TEL AVIV – An article in the largest German broadsheet Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) mimicked Nazi rhetoric by blaming Israel for Palestinian terrorism, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Titled “Israel suffers for its cycle of revenge,” the article quoted Said Zidani, a Palestinian philosophy professor at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, saying Palestinians murder Israelis not only out of “desperation but [as] an act of resistance.”
“Such headlines project classical anti-Jewish stereotypes on to the Jewish state,” Prof. Monika Schwarz-Friesel, who studies anti-Semitic language in Germany, told the Jerusalem Post.
Schwarz-Friesel claimed that the SZ article used emotional, anti-Jewish language inspired by the Nazi movement to influence its readers.
“The stereotype of Jewish revenge/vengefulness is an age-old Judeophobia concept that was articulated by the National Socialists,” she said.
Schwarz-Friesel, who is also a professor of linguistics at the Technical University of Berlin, said the key question is “Why does a German newspaper’s editorial office continue to consistently have the potential to evoke anti-Semitic thoughts and feelings in its headlines and articles regarding Israel and remain unfazed by all criticism of the rhetoric?”
The newspaper was widely condemned for anti-Semitism on a previous occasion in 2014 when it published a cartoon of Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg as an octopus with a large nose gobbling up the world.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post that the center “protested about the Mark Zuckerberg cartoon [in SZ in 2014]. Their tepid response failed to convince me that they were unaware that the grotesque use of Nazi-like animalization was obviously inappropriate and never should have seen the light of day.
“Only a biased moron would characterize Israel’s desperate efforts to protect pregnant mothers, children, and the elderly from knife-wielding Palestinian terrorists as a ‘cycle of revenge,’” Cooper added.
In 2013, SZ ran a caricature of Israel as a demonic monster with horns brandishing a carving knife. A young woman was depicted serving food to the monster and the caption underneath read: “Germany at your service. For decades, Israel has been provided with weapons, partly free of charge. Israel’s enemies consider the country to be a voracious Moloch.”
Germany’s Press Council accused the newspaper of publishing a cartoon that was “discriminatory and contributes to prejudices against Israel and Jews.” The SZ editor responsible for its placement asserted that the cartoon had “nothing to do with anti-Semitic clichés,” but added that as “the photo led to misunderstandings, it would have been better to have chosen a different photo.”
Regarding the article from last week, Dr. Matthias Küntzel, a Hamburg-based political scientist who has extensively researched modern German anti-Semitism, told the Post, “The SZ headline not only calls into question Israel’s right to self-defense, but at the same time uses the anti-Semitic stereotype of the ‘vengeful’ Jew, who allegedly is driven by irrational and archaic motives.”
Dr. Charles Small, a New York-based academic who oversees the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy, said in an interview, “It is disheartening to see SZ increasingly promote anti-Semitic tropes. The latest trend is to minimize and justify Palestinian terrorism against Jews as an expected result of the conflict. In addition, to blame the prime minister of Israel for the supposed migration of citizens of Israel, is not substantiated by facts and reflects a bias against the Jewish state.
“It is especially negligent when millions of refugees have been created in neighboring Syria and where hundreds of thousands have been massacred in a horrific protracted conflict. The irrational focus on Israel is, therefore, all the more irresponsible for journalists,” Small said.
Small’s Institute added that “in addition the SZ has published classical forms of hatred through cartoons demonizing accomplished Jewish citizens, and modern variations targeting Israel’s policies. Taking this ‘culture’ of SZ into account, it is sadly unsurprising that SZ refuses to publish a full correction of its false and hateful reporting.”
Deidre Berger, head of the Berlin-based office of the American Jewish Committee, told the Post on Friday, “In the midst of a prolonged wave of terrorism against Israeli citizens, the Süddeutsche Zeitung ascribes one-sided blame for the ongoing attacks against Israeli civilians to Israel. Instead of labeling the violence clearly as terrorism, the attacks are trivialized by equating them to Israeli responses to the terror.
“The article lacks journalistic balance, relying on assertions that reverse the context of the terrorist attacks, depicting Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs as victims instead of as perpetrators. The quotations and examples used create imagery of an unending circle of violence driven by alleged Israeli motives for revenge. Imputing motives of revenge to Israeli counterterrorism efforts to stop the violence is a dangerous allegation: One of the oldest anti-Semitic stereotypes is the assertion that Jews have an innate lust for revenge. It is a perilous myth to ascribe revenge as a national characteristic. Instead, we should be looking at Israel as one of the front-line nations countering terrorism to defend our common core Western values,” said Berger.
Ulrich Werner Grimm, executive director of the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation in Berlin, told the Post in his capacity as a private person not representing the society that “the headline suggests the Old Testament ‘God of Revenge,’ which is a classic component of an anti-Jewish/anti-Semitic bias pattern. The headline gives the following article an anti-Semitic/anti-Israel tendency that is not found in the content of the article.”